In spoken Mandarin Chinese what adjectives can be used to complement a person's appearance?

I can think of a couple off the top of my head:

  • 美丽 - Měilì - Beautiful
  • 可爱 - Kě'ài - Cute
  • 性感 - Xìnggǎn - Sexy

I've been looking around but having trouble finding any information relating to this subject

Assuming a pre-existing close relationship with the person you're complimenting, what compliments would be used in a informal setting?

Question updated to be more concise, also declaring "pre-existing close relationship" as someone you have known for a period greater then 6 months whom you're comfortable speaking freely around

  • 3
    Surely there are countless ways to compliment someone on their appearance! Can you narrow down the question a bit? Oct 23, 2013 at 2:48
  • 1
    @congusbongus I was scared it might be too broad, however not being a native speaker it's hard to know the scope of a question and if I said "commonly used" that would quickly become opinion based. I've narrowed it down probably as far as I can with my current knowledge of the language but if you feel it would be to broad fell free to flag the question
    – 50-3
    Oct 23, 2013 at 3:48
  • 1
    @50-3 It would be good if you can scope down on these factors: casual or formal, spoken or written, descriptive or appraising, and gender and age of the person to be applied.
    – NS.X.
    Oct 23, 2013 at 8:07
  • @NS.X. Question updated, as for Spoken or Written would the mandarin Tag not be enough to imply it's spoken or does it need to be declared in the body
    – 50-3
    Oct 23, 2013 at 23:39
  • 1
    @50-3 No it's not enough, spoken and written Mandarin can be very different in many cases. Also you may want to clarify whether you are in or desire a romantic relationship with that lady or you're just normal friends; Would you like the word/phrase to sound objective or convey strong personal emotion; etc.
    – NS.X.
    Oct 24, 2013 at 1:29

2 Answers 2


Here's an answer to a narrower version of the question, by only looking at single characters associated with good appearance. Hopefully this can help you understand what the multi-character versions mean.

Note that characters with a female radical tend to be used for females only.

Also, note that these single characters often change meaning when used in different contexts, so do not use this as a guide to mix-and-match and make your own words!

美: beautiful

丽: beautiful

秀: elegant

俊: handsome

俏: spruce

媚: charming

娇: tender

娆: graceful

艳: gorgeous

雅: refined

致: delicate

华: splendid

  • I feel like example words are important (you can't mix and match all of these at random). Oct 30, 2013 at 5:38
  • I've been told that 美 cannot properly be used to describe a person's beauty. 漂亮 is the better choice, unless you are reciting, or composing poetry and you are making a metaphor.
    – user43633
    Oct 31, 2013 at 13:28

Some other words are:

漂亮 (piàoliang)
秀丽 (xiùlì)
姣好 (jiāohǎo)
俏丽 (qiàolì)
标致 (biāozhì)
文雅 (wényǎ)

The adjectives you came about and the words above often used for females. By the way it's sometimes impolite to describe a girl as 性感。

  • 1
    To what extent is 性感 impolite? Is it purely based upon your relationship with the other party or are there times it should not be said to say your partner
    – 50-3
    Oct 23, 2013 at 2:47
  • 4
    This words was invented under the influence of western countries. The traditional Chinese didn't use this word. So, if a girl is very traditional, she may don't like you to say this to her. You'd better not to say this to strangers.
    – maple
    Oct 23, 2013 at 2:52
  • 1
    Can you add translations for 姣好 and 俏丽? (I can't find these in online dictionaries)
    – Cocowalla
    Oct 23, 2013 at 10:15
  • @Cocowalla Trying to find these myself so far in my research I can tell you means cunning/pretty other usage 姣俏 pretty/handsome 姣童 Handsome boy. pretty/smart/handsome 俏丽 Beautiful or good looking.
    – 50-3
    Oct 23, 2013 at 23:51
  • @50-3 Indeed true for 性感. Just traditional culture issues. Careful! Oct 30, 2013 at 4:35

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